Emporia company creates state-of-the-art classroom

August 22, 2014

A unique partnership that nearly a decade ago propelled Emporia, Kansas, to the forefront of the renaissance in engraving arts is taking a leap forward with a gift of equipment and other enhancements for a state-of-the-art classroom at Emporia State University.

Emporia-based Glendo Corp., and Emporia State University teamed up in 2005 to launch the first four-year degree program in engraving arts. Now, Glendo is giving more than $100,000 for new classroom equipment to enhance the program in the Department of Art at Emporia State University.

The gift will be celebrated at 3 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 2, at King Hall on the Emporia State campus.

An Emporia State student works on an engraving project. Although the formal partnership between Glendo and Emporia State dates back just 10 years, the journey that brought Emporia to the attention of engravers dates back nearly half a century when the late Donald Glaser began engraving firearms by hand as a hobby. An engineer by training, Donald Glaser in 1965 developed a pneumatic power tool that allowed engravers more control and the ability for more intricate detail and designs.

Word of the new products spread through the engraving world, and Donald Glaser, who already had a full-time career, filled orders using an outside machine shop. When the owner of that shop retired and another supplier closed down, Donald Glaser approached his son, D.J. Glaser, about starting a company.

In 1977, Glendo Corp., opened its doors with three employees. It went worldwide in 1988. Today, the Emporia-based company has grown to 50 employees and sells in more than 100 countries.

“There was tremendous resistance to the product at first because people saw it as a threat to the original art form,” recalled D.J. Glaser, president of Glendo. “They want to make sure that new technology will not kill their art.”

Staying focused on those who use their products has been a key to Glendo’s success. As Donald Glaser often said, “the world will be a better place with more beautiful stuff in it.”

That focus eventually led the company to launch its own education program with over 400 courses completed and close to 4,000 students attending since its inception.

“It took us 13 or 14 years to figure out we should be actively teaching,” said D.J. Glaser. “We were expecting somebody else to do it and finally came to the realization that no one was going to do it.”

As a finishing touch to its commitment to provide all levels of training, Glendo launched the Grand Masters Program, which brings master engravers to Emporia for a weeklong class to share and learn at the highest level. Kim Pember is the driving force behind the Grand Masters Program, D.J. Glaser said.

Originally from Dodge City, Kansas, Pember earned a bachelor’s degree in finance and a Master of Business Administration degree from Emporia State University. She began working at Glendo in the office and eventually became general manager. As a member of the President’s Community Advisory Council, School of Business Advisory Board and trustee for the Emporia State University Foundation, Pember has contributed to the growth and success of her alma mater.

Pember originally suggested the company and university work together on the Grand Masters Program, a conversation that led to creation of the four-year bachelor of fine arts degree with a concentration in engraving.

“It is Glendo’s pleasure to work with Emporia State University to develop the world’s first, only and finest engraving arts program,” Pember said. “We’re proud of this and the commitment Emporia State has made to make it happen.”

For D.J. Glaser, working with the engraving arts program at Emporia State University is one more way to give back to the community that has been home to his family and to Glendo Corporation.

“The Emporia community has clearly helped our business success,” Glaser said. “In deciding how Glendo should help Emporia in return, we concluded that working with Emporia State University was an excellent way to do this. We are delighted at the success of the engraving arts program at ESU. One unexpected outcome beyond statistics is how much fun it is working with ESU students and faculty.” 

Launched in fall 2006, eight students have graduated from the program, and six currently are enrolled. Students take 75 hours of core art classes along with 21 hours of art electives and 18 hours of engraving arts classes.

A highlight of the program is working at Glendo in the Artisan Alley, a creative studio that is physically part of Glendo’s research and development department. Students have access to tools from Glendo’s GRS Tools division as well as a complete machine shop that includes power saws, sanders, lathes, milling machines, grinders, welders, drill presses and other power and hand tools. With that variety of tools, students can create custom pieces for engraving rather than being limited to whatever products are commercially available.

“Students who qualify for Artisan Alley have paid internships and dedicated studio space at Glendo Corporation,” explained James Ehlers, associate professor of art and director of the engraving arts program. “They are able to test the newest tools and meet professional engravers from around the country.”

The new classroom in King Hall on the Emporia State campus has the newest state-of-the-art pneumatic engraving tools, a custom bench and high-powered microscope. There also are five flat-screen monitors in the room that are linked to the camera attached to the instructor microscope. 

“Students are able to work at a much higher level of detail and more easily do a variety of challenging techniques,” Ehlers said.

“This is a very generous and fantastic gift for the department of art and ESU,” said Patrick Martin, chair of the Department of Art at Emporia State. “We would like to thank the Glendo Corporation for their continued support for the engraving program. Students now learn, work, and develop their ideas in a state-of-the-art studio/classroom.”

Added DenaSue Potestio, president/CEO of the Emporia State University Foundation: “Private gifts and business partnerships are key to enriching the educational experience for our students. I am grateful for Glendo Corporation’s vision, leadership and wonderful generosity.”

“Every program and experience we can provide that makes Emporia State unique only helps us to continue to change lives for the common good,” said Dr. Michael D. Shonrock, president of Emporia State University. “Glendo Corporation — and D.J. and Linda Glaser and Kim Pember — are wonderful partners for the university and the Emporia community.”

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